Acute myelogenous leukemia (AML) is a cancer of the blood and bone marrow. With AML, the bone marrow makes abnormal blood cells including:

  • Myeloblasts—a type of white blood cell; white blood cells fight infection
  • Red blood cells (RBCs)—carry oxygen
  • Platelets—makes blood clot, stops bleeding in cuts or bruises

AML begins in immature myeloblasts and progresses very quickly. It may also be the end state of chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML).

Cancer occurs when cells in the body become abnormal. They divide without control or order. Leukemia is cancer of the white blood cells and their parent cells. Leukemia cells do not function normally. They cannot do what normal blood cells do. In this case, they can not fight infections. This means that the person is more likely to become infected with viruses or bacteria. The cancerous cells also overgrow the bone marrow. This forces other normal components, like platelets out. Platelets are needed to help the blood clot. As a result, people with leukemia may bleed more easily.

White Blood Cells
White Blood Cells
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The cause of AML is unknown. However, smoking after age 60 doubles the risk of this condition.